Sunday, October 12, 2014

Guns in the Hands of Artists at Ferrara

A recent visit to the Guns in the Hands of Artists show at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery reminded me of the old saying: "From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow." Could the same be true of bullets? The first such Guns show premiered almost 20 years ago to modest fanfare, but if you google Guns in the Hands of Artists now, the list of newspapers, TV stations and major national networks covering the show goes on and on. The works on view really do give us something to think about while giving the artists -- who often live in sketchy areas -- a creative way to comment on senseless destruction. Sculptor Brian Borrello initiated the first such show in 1996, and returns this year with a modified Mac-10 automatic pistol fitted with a cartridge magazine so long that it circles back on itself, left. Its surreality recalls Ionesco's Absurdist play, The Rhinoceros, a parodic take on how extremist violence is a contagion that can increase exponentially and, like the play, this piece is both absurd and  insightful. Sculptor/ urban planner Robert Tannen extends the metaphor with his Four Barreled Handgun, a pistol that holds dozens of bullets but can never be fired without endangering the shooter. But H. Cole Wiley and Luke DuBois take it to another level with a plexiglass-encased pistol that fires a blank whenever a NOPD homicide report is posted.


Any murder map of New Orleans is necessarily a map of misguided revenge, collateral damage and mistaken identity, and Ron Bechet's murder map with victims' names written in smudgy red is perhaps best described by its title: Why? Here again, little bullets grow into a big, bloody mess. John Barnes takes this city's residential architecture literally in his evocative "shotgun house" sculpture, Marigny Warning, below, perhaps a reference to the shooting of an unarmed young black dude who broke into a fearful Marigny home owner's walled yard and got shot as he gazed upon his car. Unlikely works like Onegin, Nicholas Varney's gold and diamond bullet commodity fetish displayed with a decommissioned handgun, or Generic Art Solutions related Target: Audience bullet-filled gum ball machine, above left, plus a simpatico work by Dan Tague and a trove of talented others round out a very varied but mostly high impact show. ~Bookhardt

Guns in the Hands of Artists: Decommissioned Guns Repurposed as Art, Through Jan. 24, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471. Left: Marigny Warning by John Barnes